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Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC
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Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  1,700 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Ebola, Lassa Fever, AIDS--few natural disasters inspire such utter panic as a rampaging virus. In this gripping, true account of the war against worldwide epidemics, one of medicine's frontline generals, Dr. Joseph McCormick, developer of the CDC's legendary hot zone, chronicles his decades as a virus hunter, working to combat the virus as predator. 16-pages of photos.
Hardcover, 379 pages
Published July 1st 1996 by Turner Publications Inc (first published 1996)
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(showing 1-30)
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Adriane
So my criticisms for this book remain. It seems to be a direct response to "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston by continually saying things like "despite what popular fiction and non-fiction novels say Ebola does not 'melt the organs' they stay intact" which is fine. Maybe Preston exaggerated a bit, but the truth is that his writing is both compelling, exciting, and informative. This book suffers from too many narrative voices, as well as trying to be both clinical and compelling. It made me prett ...more
Chana
I enjoyed learning about the various Level 4 viruses like Lassa fever, Ebola, and other hemorrhagic fever viruses. It was fascinating learning what the vectors for passing the diseases to human could be, such as ticks, mice urine, rats etc, how the diseases are spread in hospitals by the lack of proper barrier nursing procedures and the re-use of needles, and all the symptoms of these diseases and how they are treated in developing countries under crude conditions and how they are treated in fir ...more
Jenny Maloney
No lie: there are some slow parts to this episodic narrative of the hunt for some not-so-slow viruses (AIDS, Ebola, Lassa, and Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever among them). But that's only to be expected. The real world is not like Outbreak and there is years of research behind vaccinations, understanding the origins of a disease, and developing treatments. Lucky for the reader that McCormick and Fisher-Hoch kept the narrative as fast-moving as they did, because it could easily, easily, easily ge ...more
Heather Smith
Aug 06, 2014 Heather Smith rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
It only took about 15 pages for me to remember why I picked this book up in high school only to lose interest and give it back to the library unfinished. Sure, it's about one of my favorite subjects - epidemiology - and it's set in interesting, exotic locations. But somehow, it still manages to be boring.

It took me over 6 months to read it because I was trudging through it four or five pages at a time, sometimes without opening it for weeks because I had zero motivation to do so. As much as I l
...more
Samantha
Jul 22, 2013 Samantha rated it really liked it
An excellent, fascinating look at the experiences of two epidemiologists as they travel around the world trying to puzzle out various diseases. This is good stuff - plenty of suspense as they deal with unexpected threats and try to figure out where a disease originated, coupled with interesting stories about the challenges of maneuvering around and trying to practice science in third-world countries. Fairly easy to read, too - definitely written for the layperson. If I had one quibble, it's the ...more
Peaching Kaze
Aug 12, 2009 Peaching Kaze rated it liked it
I was pretty enthralled by this book, until it became a love story...
Stephanie Fox
Jan 23, 2017 Stephanie Fox rated it it was amazing
This is a great book that tells each situation like it is: virus hunting, the poverty that drives decision-making by medical practitioners in economically depressed areas, and how it feels to actually be there, dealing with personalities and motivations.

I loved the part about Dr. Fisher-Hoch's trip to Saudi Arabia. As a woman who has been to the Middle East and studied the culture - and who will not accept limitations on women - I was intrigued to read that she had not known what the culture and
...more
Katie George
Apr 19, 2015 Katie George rated it really liked it
The fascinating stories of two CDC epidemiologists who spent years working in Africa, as well as Asia and South America, chasing highly contagious and dangerous viruses. There were some slow points in the book, but overall, I found it extremely interesting to read about the actions of actual epidemiologists working first hand with these viruses in their host countries. The book deals mostly with Lassa Fever, which I admittedly knew very little about before reading this book. I had picked up this ...more
Sara J.
Dec 29, 2016 Sara J. rated it it was amazing
As a second year medical student with quite a bit of microbiology information under my belt, I found this book absolutely fascinating. Sure at times there were slow bits where they would describe a lab's construction or a biochemical test, but I thought it gave a very frank representation of infectious disease doctors working on the global scene and in public health. It was enlightening to be given a look behind the scenes of some of the mass outbreaks of viruses that terrify the general public, ...more
Heather
Feb 18, 2017 Heather rated it it was amazing
So my criticisms for this book remain. It seems to be a direct response to "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston by continually saying things like "despite what popular fiction and non-fiction novels say Ebola does not 'melt the organs' they stay intact" which is fine. Maybe Preston exaggerated a bit, but the truth is that his writing is both compelling, exciting, and informative. This book suffers from too many narrative voices, as well as trying to be both clinical and compelling
Tomijo Gale
Mar 22, 2016 Tomijo Gale rated it it was amazing
Since first hearing of Ebola and "emerging viruses" I have periodically read a fairly wide range of books on this and related epidemiology including Richard Preston's "Hot Zone", William Closes's "Ebola", John Barry's "The Great Influenza", Jeffrey Fisher's "The Plague Makers", and Laurie Garrett's "The Coming Plague" among others. What originally draws me to these books are the details behind the medicine and science that work hand in hand on the front lines of the fight against these diseases ...more
Kathy
Jan 26, 2009 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this book up because it was highly recommended by the instructor of my travel health course. It looked interesting, so why not?

First of all, you must remember that the authors of this book are two MD's. In collaboration with the editor, they actually write fairly well, but if you don't speak medical jargon (doctor, nurse, public health officials, medical scientists), beware of some parts of this book. It will be hard to follow.

Secondly, I was having problems with chronology when readin
...more
Meredith
Excellent read on some of the most virulent (and prevalent!) viruses in the developing world. This text is not only informative but essential reading for everyone who is not convinced that AIDS or similar diseases are as deadly as they have heard. That being said, I found several times throughout the book that the authors seemed to forget the audience they were trying to reach; there were times when they would delve so deep into discussing the finer points of a virus that I wasn't able to glean ...more
Joanna
Apr 05, 2008 Joanna rated it liked it
Shelves: germ-books, biography
Co-written by two virus hunters who have worked for the CDC, this was an interesting, but not riveting, autobiographical account of their experiences doing fieldwork with viruses such as Ebola, Lassa, HIV, and Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever.

It reads somewhat like a summary of two combined diaries, which makes for a bit of repetition and a few instances of not knowing which author is narrating, but those annoyances were minor. After histories of how each author became involved in viral research,
...more
Joel Justiss
Feb 07, 2009 Joel Justiss rated it it was ok
Shelves: public-health
This book is a series of narratives of the authors’ experiences working for the Centers for Disease Control. Most involve field research on the sources and transmission of deadly viruses in Africa. The stories are interesting, but they lack a strong theme. The authors scatter a number of important observations through their stories, but I often wondered what point the authors were attempting to make by writing this book.

167 (description of the appalling conditions in Mama Yemo Hospital in Kinsha
...more
murph
May 22, 2008 murph rated it liked it
Like The Hot Zone, except it's good.

In the hysteria following the Ebola outbreaks of the 1990s, some authors chose to make money riding a tidal wave of fear and hype. Others chose to write books that inform people.

Level 4 is solidly in the informing camp. It is not going to grab you by the throat, but it will give you an appreciation for the dangers and challenges faced by the scientists of the Center for Disease Control staff. You'll learn things, like how scientists have tracked the emergence
...more
Aurora
Aug 27, 2012 Aurora rated it liked it
Reading about the outbreaks and testing and specimen collection etc etc was interesting but the more I read, the more I hated the main character. He completely neglects his wife and kids to chase after his personal goals, which is even more disgusting considering he never would have had the chance to get this job if it wasn't for his wife getting him accepted into medical school. After neglecting his family for years, he cheats on his wife with someone else in the field (good thing his wife stay ...more
Shea Mastison
Aug 03, 2013 Shea Mastison rated it really liked it
This was quite the fascinating professional autobiography of two CDC epidemiologists! McCormick and Fisher-Hoch were at the forefront of Level 4 viral research in Africa, Asia, and the US, handling everything from AIDS to Ebola.

Personally, I preferred McCormick's writing style as he seemed to do less moralizing and more describing; but I do have to admit a hearty amount of respect for Fisher-Hoch, who managed to climb her way to a respectable position in a male-dominated field at a time (and in
...more
Leah
Dec 07, 2012 Leah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nerd-books, reviewed
I read this book in my freshman college biology class and it was a light bulb moment. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do. That doesn't relate to the book other than it is written well enough to make an 18 year old want to become one of those amazing people in the book. And be involved with solving these incredible medical crisis. The stories are really well told and not too sciency to be inaccessible to anyone who might be interested but not have a science background. Though you probably have t ...more
Sue Pit
Nov 06, 2015 Sue Pit rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read the 1999 edition and feared at first it would be most dated as it regards the CDC's investigation into emerging epidemics including ebola and lassa amongst other scourges. However, albeit much has occurred since then, this book is an interesting read as to how index cases and spread of germs were investigated in the early days (e.g. 1980s…lol) and still likely largely holds for today. Two epidemiologists take turns in discussing the cases and investigations. There are typos yet in this ed ...more
Carissa
Jan 19, 2017 Carissa rated it really liked it
"We ask the reader of our story to keep in mind the role that humans play in the spread of these infections. If we don't begin to deal with problems like overpopulation and poverty, we may end up looking back nostalgically on the late twentieth century as a time of health and tranquility. As we will show you, in the world of viruses, we are the invaders."

This books is now 20 years old, and while some of the information is out of date, much of it, including the above message from the preface, is
...more
Anna Engel
Jan 07, 2016 Anna Engel rated it liked it
I love stories of boots-on-the-ground epidemiology. The adventures described are autobiographical vignettes during the lives of the two authors. Dr. M is the primary storyteller until the latter half of the book, when he clumsily passes the proverbial torch off to his co-author. Each transition is possibly the most awkward in the history of the written word. The only way you know who wrote what section is when the author mentions his or her co-author. This is an editorial fail.
Monical
Jan 29, 2016 Monical rated it liked it
very interesting book about virus hunting at the CDC. a lot of the activities occur in Africa, and there is a good description of integrating the research with the culture in Africa. Some successes, and some failures. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more information about HIV, but as the book progressed it became clear that the more acute, fast diseases got attention, while something like HIV was too "subtle" to gain much attention. sadly!

still a very interesting book!
Heather
May 19, 2013 Heather rated it liked it
I thought I would really enjoy this book. While I found parts of it interesting I found the writing style of McCormick really difficult to read through. Fisher-Hoch's narratives were easier to read but both seemed to have trouble weaving their stories into a cohesive whole. I also expected the histories & transmission of the diseases to be more thoroughly explained. Some of the information was there but scattered through the stories so haphazardly the information was hard to retain.
Tessa in Mid-Michigan
Jun 11, 2014 Tessa in Mid-Michigan rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, dnf, disease
I managed to read the preface and three chapters before I could take the errors no longer. On three pages alone (p. 32-34) I found simple statements that were unclear and unexplained, another that was inaccurate scientifically, and a third that contained a logical fallacy. This is written by a major leader in infectious disease? No confidence in him. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Claudia
Jan 04, 2008 Claudia rated it really liked it
I loved how the writers where able to incorporate a little bit of science, story telling and actual history of how all these viruses where discover and controled. Not only that but you get to travel throughout the world and learn about so many different cultures. It's a great read for the science geek. =0D
Melissa Cuevas
Dec 31, 2012 Melissa Cuevas rated it liked it
Overall, an enjoyable book... tries really hard to bring the subject down to a layman's level and mostly succeeds. However, suffers from an odd "Flow of consciousness" structure, scattering a timeline, chain of events, and even a good grasp of which one of the narratives (Joe's or Sue's) I was actually following all over the place. Could have really benefited from a more vicious editor.
Leilani
May 06, 2014 Leilani rated it liked it
I admit I had to quit the book with less than one-hundred pages left because I just couldn't get through it. The topic was incredibly interesting, but the narrative was repetitive and it was difficult for me to pay enough attention to keep the stories straight. If you are big into epidemiology and public health it might be worth it to you to give it a try.
T
Jun 17, 2012 T rated it liked it
This book remains memorable to me, two years after reading it, for really only one reason: a few sentences on the HIV researcher-physician who, around the time that I read this book (in late 2010), had just accepted me into his lab as an undergraduate researcher. While the overall content of this book was interesting, I feel that it wasn't executed as well as it could have been.
Eric Mccutcheon
Aug 19, 2013 Eric Mccutcheon rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting book about the search for and treatment of viruses. These scientists have lived extraordinary lives in remote places and their stories were great but it did get a little repetitive after awhile. It also seemed a bit dated for me (written in 1996). A lot has changed in the world and with the treatment of viruses. I would love to see an updated edition of this book.
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